Customs issues blunt warning over cargo system

The Australian Customs Service has dispensed with the niceties over the introduction of its $200 million Cargo Management Reengineering (CMR) system, warning users to sign up for digital certificates or watch their goods go nowhere in a hurry.

Under CMR, users are legally required to submit import and export declarations electronically via a new Web-based system; the previous electronic data interchange system will be shut down on October 12.

After numerous false starts, documents which Customs sent to CMR users, and obtained by Computerworld, reveal the agency is leaving no room for misinterpretation about the finality of cut-over date.

In an e-mail sent yesterday (September 26) and ominously headed "Preparation time has run out..." Customs warns laggards "it is absolutely critical that you contact VeriSign today to purchase your digital certificate(s)," adding that users without PKI certificates "must start the process today if you are going to have any chance of being ready for October 12 2005".

The warnings have not impressed the Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association (CBFCA), which has been fighting tooth and nail against the introduction of CMR, with many members standing to lose substantial parts of their business because the new system allows importers and exporters to deal directly with Customs rather than using service providers.

Particularly, the group has repeatedly claimed and maintains that R is unstable under load, an allegation rejected by both Customs and a number of software developers.

Customs CEO Lionel Woodward said, "While the Customs Brokers and Forwarders Council of Australia again requested a further delay to the ICS timetable, this view was not supported by other industry groups or indeed, some substantial customs brokers."

Woodward described system testing by Customs industry as rigorous at function, stress and volume levels saying his agency "is not aware of any issues that would prevent the ICS from being used as planned by 12 October".

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